The relationship between the Biden administration and the future Israeli government

November 29, 2022 by

Raffaele Petroni

The relationship between the Biden administration and the future Israeli government

The results of the recent elections in Israel have been, and still are, a topic of discussion in the international arena. While the government has not yet been formed, Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to the premiership and the involvement of most of the religious and religious-zionist parties that comprise the right-wing coalition that supported him have prompted many pundits and international commentators to express concern about the potential measures taken by the future government.

One issue that has been the subject of debate is what the future holds between the present American administration and the future Israeli government. The relationship between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had many ups and downs over the decades. The relationship between the designated Israeli Prime Minister and the Obama Administration, when President Biden was the Vice President, was very thorny, with strong moments of confrontation. The relationship between this administration and the future government of Benjamin Netanyahu might have similar strong moments of confrontation.

Although it has not been in doubt that the American administration will not change its main positions on Israel and its security concerns, President Biden’s decision to appoint officials to the State Department who were part of the Obama administration and critical of Israeli policies and some American policies related to Israel made some raise their eyebrows. Also, the decision to restart negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program prompted the strong opposition of most officials of the defense agencies and led high-ranking Israeli officials, including Yitzhak Herzog, the President of the Republic of Israel, to state that the Jewish State will always keep for itself the right to self-defense and act against its enemies.

Similarly, the decision of the American administration to restore the financial aids to the Palestinian Authority (PA) that were withdrawn previously by the Trump administration, including donations to UNRWA, the agency of the United Nations for the Palestinian refugees, led many officials to twitch their noses. Some American officials, particularly Republican members of Congress, stated that this decision was violating the Taylor Force Act, a piece of American law that prohibits the transfer of funds to the PA until it ends its “pay to slay” policy.

Along with these events, the decision of the Biden administration to revoke the financial sanctions that had been imposed on the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the Trump administration was not received positively by Israeli officials because of the PA’s intention to use the court as a diplomatic stick against Israel. The attempts of the Biden Administration to pressure the PA to stop efforts to have the Jewish State stand before the ICC have proven unsuccessful so far, fueling Israeli discontent with President Biden.

A major incident between Israel and the USA, capable of having serious repercussions, has taken place just a few weeks after the results of the Israeli elections were finalized. The American administration took a step that was not appreciated by the majority of the Israeli political spectrum, including the present government: the Ministry of Justice appointed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with the responsibility to investigate the death of the American-Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who died while covering an anti-terrorism operation of the Israeli army (IDF) in the Palestinian city of Jenin.

The death took place on May 11th, 2022, during an exchange of fire between the IDF and Palestinian armed fighters. The IDF immediately launched an investigation and offered the PA cooperation in exchange for the bullet found in Abu Akleh’s body.The PA rejected the offer, and the bullet was never provided.

The investigation eventually ended with the IDF declaring that the shot that killed Abu Akleh had likely been fired by an IDF soldier, although it could not be declared with certainty. Throughout the whole investigation, the the  has always shared the information it collected with the American authorities. Therefore, the decision to involve the FBI and ask them to start a new investigation of the case has been perceived as an insult to the seriousness and transparency of the IDF and its investigations.

Pundits and commentators have cast doubt on the appropriateness of the American decision. It has also been suggested, and in many cases speculated, that it was a decision meant to send a subliminal message to Netanyahu and his coalition.

The recent terror attacks that have hit Jerusalem have left an American Jewish citizen severely injured. The question that many asked sarcastically is whether the Biden Administration will appoint the FBI with the responsibility to investigate this incident or not. Despite the sarcasm of some, an investigation on the terror attack that has injured this American Jewish citizen is actually likely to be opened, considering that one of the mandates of the FBI is to investigate terror-related incidents that involve American citizens.

In conclusion, while the Israeli government is not officially formed yet, the path of the diplomatic relations between the State of Israel and the USA is paved with obstacles. In the coming weeks and months, this relationship will attract a lot of attention in the international community.

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